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Laura Brady

Arianne Eason  

Letter from the SPSSI 2020 Conference Co-Chairs

Laura Brady, Associate Research Scientist, University of Michigan 
Arianne Eason, Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley 

Dear SPSSI Community, 

In a normal year, we would write that we are two months away from SPSSI’s 2020 conference in beautiful Denver, Colorado. We would tell you about the speakers chosen to represent this year’s theme, Making the Invisible Visible: Transformative Research and Social Action. We would convey our excitement to see you all in person, to connect with old and new friends, to gather as a community and discuss how we can use our knowledge, tools, resources, and time to build bridges and make social change. But as we all know, this is not a normal year. 

Although SPSSI will not be meeting in person, due to health and safety concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic, the SPSSI community once again showed its strength, dedication, and eagerness to discuss cutting edge, socially transformative research. This year, we received nearly 500 submissions for posters, talks, symposia, and interactive discussions. These submissions covered a wide range of topics, including intersectionality, intergroup relations, pedagogy, policy, immigration, sexual relations, health, stigma, interventions, social movements, justice, prejudice and discrimination, and so much more. More than 100 reviewers read and rated each abstract and provided thoughtful assessments of how each submission would contribute to the conference.  

We also read the vast majority of these abstracts and were impressed and inspired by the work SPSSI members are doing. Our members not only tackle difficult topics, but use inventive methodologies and transdisciplinary approaches to highlight, understand, and undo social inequalities in diverse domains. They recruit hard-to-reach populations to ensure their voices are heard and their experiences are represented in science and policy. They embrace, rather than shy away from, controversial subjects that have implications for the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of society. 

As SPSSI’s President, Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, described in her letter, what this pandemic has made clear is that the work our community is doing is more important than ever. Across the globe, individuals, families, and communities are struggling to stay safe, nourished, housed, and connected. Many of the existing inequalities in society have come into sharp relief, and many new inequalities have emerged. While we are deeply saddened that the SPSSI community will not be able to convene this year, we know from the tremendous engagement we saw leading up to the conference that this community has the knowledge, tools, and courage to address the social issues COVID-19 has made salient. We are proud that SPSSI members are represented in the ranks of scientists and activists working to shed light on inequality in this time of global upheaval. Our members advocate for those who have been silenced, lobby for equitable and just policies at the local and national levels, and hold up the members of society who need the most support at this time. That is who we are as a community. 

We would like to offer a tremendous and heartfelt thank you to all of the submitters and reviewers for your hard work preparing for this conference and for your contributions to the field. Thank you for your engagement and support. Thank you for making SPSSI the strong, justice-minded community that we are.  

In health, solidarity, and hope, 

Laura Brady and Arianne Eason 

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